This Caged Bird Sings

Columbus 12This is angry, bitter, raw. It deserves none of the finesse and crafting of my usual posts.

There is a great divide between men and women. Women live  life thinking about our surroundings and constantly assessing our safety. Walking at night is too risky. Passing construction sites garners catcalls. What do we have on hand other than the keys already between our fingers that is a potential weapon? There’s a man staring at me, potential attacker. What’s that sound behind eye? What just came into my peripheral vision.

There are self-defense classes just for women. Not self-defense. Self-defense FOR WOMEN. Because we are the targets and it’s not enough to take a self-defense class.

Reports of rape, sexual assault, and sexual harassment aren’t taken seriously by the general public. She was asking for it. Her lips said no, but her eyes said yes. Look at what she was wearing. She’s had so many sexual partners she’s just saying she was raped because she was spurned.

You can deny this happens all you want. You can be uncomfortable because men cannot keep their hands and other body parts  to themselves, groping, ripping, tearing, and invading our bodies.

YOU SHOULD BE UNCOMFORTABLE.

Women are not safe because men cannot take responsibility for themselves. They must blame us because that’s the manly thing to do.

I was sexually assaulted in college by an athlete I met in the first week of school. He found a way into a LOCKED all-female dorm after-hours. He made his way into my room, which I had left unlocked because my roommate was out of town and I had a habit of waking up to use the bathroom and locking myself out. When he left my room, I went to a neighbor’s room because I heard the TV on. He was in there with her. He didn’t see me, but she came out to talk to me. She didn’t believe me when I told her because he hadn’t touched her. Because she didn’t believe me I didn’t tell anyone for months. And because I left my room unlocked I beat myself up day after day for being so careless. Never mind the fact that he never should have been able to get inside the dorm period. No, I blamed myself because I should have known better. And it wasn’t walking around by myself at night. It was being in my room. Alone. I spent a lot of time out of my room. A lot.

Years later when the nightmares finally left me alone, I was stalked by a fellow psych major. We were in several classes together and he wound up with my number because we had group project together with other students. He called multiple times a day. I startled every time  the phone rang and started screening my calls. When one of my uncles discovered what was going on, he wanted to break my stalker’s arms and legs. While the idea was nice, it wasn’t worth it. One of my classes was easy to steer away from him because it was the big lecture room in Gartley Hall. The other class wasn’t so easy. It was a seminar class with only a handful of students and a large table we all sat around. I would purposefully arrive late to choose a seat away from him. Mind you, I told him more than once that I wasn’t interested in him and to leave me alone and he wouldn’t. It didn’t take long for the nightmares to return. This time of my assailant and my stalker working together.

It is a huge problem when you fear a stalker who drives you to keep your keys between your fingers while walking to classes in BROAD DAYLIGHT. It wasn’t a far stretch for me to wield my umbrella like a weapon in my other hand either.

These two events left scars that still run deep. The last time we were home for a visit, KFVE ran a replay of a game from those days in college and while I was excited to watch a our team decimate BYU, the announcer saying my assailants name drove me back into that time full of fear, nightmares, and distancing myself from relationships. Women cannot come out on the other side of this without those scars. They affect our relationships with everyone.  They are long-reaching scars and no one is immune to them. No one.

But that was back in college you say?

Early on in my career in mental health a client sexually assaulted me. We had a saying, if it isn’t documented it didn’t happen. This particular client was prone to making graphic sexual threats towards women, especially when we had to physically restrain him. It would have been so easy to brush off what happened the night he assaulted me. To half-ass my paperwork and gone home to sleep it off. I stayed until the wee hours of the morning DETAILING what he did. What I did. What he said. How he struggled after punching me in the face and I had him in a physical restraint. How he was grabbing for me between my legs in the struggle and I had to keep readjusting so he couldn’t. How we wound up on his bed with him on top and back to me finally able to to not just grope me, but grab a hold and squeeze. How help finally arrived and took over so I could get away from him. By the time I returned to work the next day, everyone knew what happened. Almost every single female co-worker told me, “He did that to me, too.” I couldn’t believe it. If he had done that so many women, he shouldn’t have been in our facility. I went back to his chart and sure enough, no one documented being sexually assaulted by him. Why? Fear? Embarrassment? I’ll never know. But I know my sexual assault could have been prevented if just one of the women had reported it with their documentation.

Are you still uncomfortable?

I hope so. Because this happens every day to us. If it can happen to me, it can happen to you, your sister, your daughter, your mother.

Does your discomfort make you want to yell at me and tell me I’m wrong, not all men are like that, who do I think I am spouting all this? Do you want to tell me to just shut up and deal with it? You have no right to say those things because you haven’t lived it. You have a responsibility to make change so our daughters can live in world where they live without fear of being snatched, groped, assaulted, and raped.

I won’t ever shut up.

We women have a collective story to tell. Maya Angelou, who passed away this week, taught me that every story we have to tell is valid no matter how taboo society may deem it.

This caged bird will sing loud and long until change happens.

 

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How Advertising Fails Us

I did a project back in college for my Psychology of Women class that I called, “Hidden Advertising.” I never really intended to take Psychology of Women. Like Existential Psychology, after my first day I really wanted to withdraw but I needed the Psych credits and could not fit any of the other classes in my schedule.

My professor was an ultra- feminist. Most of her lectures were rants. There was not much discussion because if you disagreed with her opinion, she ripped you to shreds in the large, echoing lecture hall.

It was not pleasant.

But it forced us all to think about gender stereotypes, blaming victims, and women’s role in society.

For the project, I pulled out ads from magazines and addressed how each ad was using sex, stereotypes, and low self-esteem to sell their products to the masses. Some of the products may surprise you.

They tell us that we need to use things to feel and look sensual and beautiful as if we cannot be either naturally. They show us we need to be thin and flawless to be beautiful and noticed.

They blindside us with our gullibility and take our money in the process. Our return on investment? Body dysmorphia and eating disorders.

This will make you think like my post, The Scale, if you are not already thinking.

Showering isn't just for cleansing anymore. Thanks to Neutrogena, it's sensual, too.

Showering isn’t just for cleansing anymore. Thanks to Neutrogena, it’s sensual, too.

You can be unforgettable if you wear Revlon products. At least that's what THEY say. I know some pretty unforgettable women who wear no makeup at all.

You can be unforgettable if you wear Revlon products. At least that’s what THEY say. I know some pretty unforgettable women who wear no makeup at all.

Cover Girl redefined beautiful for us. Our beauty has to look natural and our complexion has to be clear. I think society defined it that way long before Cover Girl. So did they really redefine it for us?

Cover Girl redefined beautiful for us. Our beauty has to look natural and our complexion has to be clear. I think society defined it that way long before Cover Girl. So did they really redefine it for us?

Society does not want old, wrinkled women. Thanks to L'Oreal and other companies we freak out at the first sign of wrinkles and look for anything that will take them away. I have wrinkles for a reason. They tell my story.

Society does not want old, wrinkled women. Thanks to L’Oreal and other companies we freak out at the first sign of wrinkles and look for anything that will take them away. I have wrinkles for a reason. They tell my story.

We can never have too much according to Max Factor. Note the use of "2000 Calorie" in the product name. Surely that many calories in a mascara means it is indulgent, too.

We can never have too much according to Max Factor. Note the use of “2000 Calorie” in the product name. Surely that many calories in a mascara means it is indulgent, too.

Maybelline says it's not realistically possible to have good genes. Nope, we're not born with good skin or great eyes. It MUST be the makeup.

Maybelline says it’s not realistically possible to have good genes. Nope, we’re not born with good skin or great eyes. It MUST be the makeup.

We're worth what we pay to put on a facade rather than be real.

We’re worth what we pay to put on a facade rather than be real.

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Women cannot have dry or rough skin. That's for men. And every inch of our skin must be soft.

Women cannot have dry or rough skin. That’s for men. And every inch of our skin must be soft.

We can change our shape just by wearing Hanes Silk Reflections. They figured out the secret to magically changing our shapes once we don their product.

We can change our shape just by wearing Hanes Silk Reflections. They figured out the secret to magically changing our shapes once we don their product.

Do jeans really attract the men? If you Request them, I guess they do.

Do jeans really attract the men? If you Request them, I guess they do.

Why don't women have a perfume called Iron? Because women should be soft and sweet. Never mind the fact that I can pump iron, too.

Why don’t women have a perfume called Iron? Because women should be soft and sweet. Never mind the fact that I can pump iron, too.

If I was re-doing this today I simply would have captioned this, *face palm*. Or maybe, *head desk*

If I was re-doing this today I simply would have captioned this, *face palm*. Or maybe, *head desk*

"Shhhh. Don't let anyone know you're hurt." Women aren't supposed to show pain. We're supposed to take it and keep going. Yes, let's reinforce denying feelings and passivity.

“Shhhh. Don’t let anyone know you’re hurt.” Women aren’t supposed to show pain. We’re supposed to take it and keep going. Yes, let’s reinforce denying feelings and passivity.

Again, we cannot take pain. We cannot enjoy anything if we have cramps. I'm pretty sure I can enjoy a lot of chocolate when I have cramps. And a good action flick.

Again, we cannot take pain. We cannot enjoy anything if we have cramps. I’m pretty sure I can enjoy a lot of chocolate when I have cramps. And a good action flick.

Perpetuating the stereotype that men like us more for our bodies and not our minds. We must show cleavage, shoulders, and most of our legs. It's more of a hindrance than an asset.

Perpetuating the stereotype that men like us more for our bodies and not our minds. We must show cleavage, shoulders, and most of our legs. It’s more of a hindrance than an asset.

Women need to be stylish, soft, and slim. If we smoke, our cigarettes should be, too.

Women need to be stylish, soft, and slim. If we smoke, our cigarettes should be, too.